Category Archives: Lebanon

#NERD16: Let’s Build Robots To Collect/Recycle Our Garbage & Prevent Fires

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#NERD16 is an open nationwide tournament that is hosted at AUB on March 2016 and the biggest robotics tournament in Lebanon. This year marks the sixth edition of NERD (National Education Robotics Day) and it will feature more competitions and challenges than the previous years. Moreover, this year’s theme “Robots for Nature” is related to our current situation and the robotics challenges are about waste management and environmental issues.

I guess this is a good opportunity to figure out solutions to our current garbage problem. Who knows? Maybe students will come up with robots that recycle and collect garbage for us. I heard Volvo is working on something like that already, so here’s a chance for Lebanese students to offer a solution. I’d love to see someone design a robot that can be deployed in forests and prevent fires before they take place as well. That would be very helpful especially in Lebanon.

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I know the ideas that I’m proposing may seem impossible to achieve, but we have a lot of talented young students participating in this competition and one of our Lebanese teams (Fast & Curious) has won the first place in at the Arab Robotics Championship last year and a World Robotics Festival in the US.

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#NERD16 is open to all Lebanese student teams or individuals aged 6 or more. The registration period for schools, universities and teams starts on October 23 and ends on December 31. It’s the best opportunity for smart and geeky students to shine so don’t miss out!

PS: For school students, their schools must register. For university students, they can register by themselves. Registration can be done on the website www.etclb.com where anyone can find the rules of all the different competitions and challenges.

[YouTube]

Lebanon’s Most Controversial Bishop, Grégoire Haddad, Dies At 91

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Grégoire Haddad was a bishop and at some point Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Beirut and Jbeil, yet he believed in secularism, was among the first to strike his religious affiliations from his civil records and supported civil marriage. He believed that the idea of a civil marriage is harder to apprehend among the Christians because Christian figures “feared loss of power and money” and asked Lebanese to fight for this idea.

Known as the “Red Bishop”, Haddad received several warnings and threats for his daring take on several issues related to religion, politics and society in Lebanon and was once attacked by religious extremists. He fought for over 40 years against sectarianism and helped found the Civil Society, a secular socio-political movement.

civil Haddad removed his religious affiliations from his civil records

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from one of Haddad’s old interviews:

“If one is a true Christian, he should be able to accept people as they are, and if people wish to exist in a certain manner, then no one should deter them from doing so, and it is the state’s duty to provide them with the right laws to support their way of living. In the end, if one wishes to cross out their religion, it does not mean that they have lost faith, and a man should be valued because he is man and not because of the belief he practices.”

Our biggest problem in Lebanon is still sectarianism and the fact that we put loyalty and religion before competence. Gregoire Haddad was a symbol of moderation and openness and we need more religious and non-religious people like him.

BlogBaladi Is Lebanon’s Most Influential Blog And The Blog Of The Year 2015

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most influential

[LebaneseBlogs] has just published this morning its blogging statistics and awards for 2015 and BlogBaladi emerged as Lebanon’s Most Influential Blog of 2015, also known as Lebanon’s Blog of the year which is awesome news!

What I love about these statistics is that they are not based on subjective opinions, but on hard data gathered and analyzed from the thousands of posts that were published and indexed this year, and I thank Mustapha for going through this effort to pull out these results because I know it’s not easy.

BlogBaladi was featured in all the top lists as follows:

Lebanon’s 20 Most Shared posts on Facebook:
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My post on the Facebook Safety Check following the Burj Brajneh attacks gathered over 30k in terms of shares and ranked #7 in the most shared Facebook posts list.

Congrats to Elie from A Separate State of Mind for topping the list.

Lebanon’s 20 most shared posts on Twitter:
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It’s very hard to compete with KarlRemarks on Twitter but I managed to sneak into 10th spot with my post on Lebanese journalist and activists and my friend Joumana Haddad being denied entrance to Bahrain.

Ambassador Tom Fletcher topped the list this year with his farewell tweet.

Lebanon’s most viral blogger:
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BlogBaladi was ranked as the 3rd most viral blog in 2015 with an average of 35.9 over 50. Virality is a “score for each post that combines its Twitter shares and Facebook shares while normalizing extreme variations”. Last year my average was 21.72 so this is a huge improvement and I’m glad that all the hard work I put into generating better content this year paid off.

Congrats to Elie from A Separate State of Mind and Ralph from Blog Of The Boss for the top 2 spots.

Lebanon’s most prolific blogger:
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Last year I was the most prolific blogger with over 1,557 posts throughout the year, and I could have probably topped the list this year but I decided to cut down my posts to 2 or 3 per day and try to improve the quality of the posts even further and it surely paid off in the virality average and user engagement.

Congrats to Anthony from NoGarlicNoOnions for topping the list.

Lebanon’s blog of the year:

I’m very proud to top the list and be Lebanon’s most influential blogger for 2015. Blogging is hard work and it’s always great to see your work being appreciated, especially when it’s based on objective results and hard data.

Check out all the results [here].

Four Ways To Celebrate New Year’s Eve In Lebanon

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nye via Siestke

New Year’s Eve is 4 days away and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t decide on what to do yet, but it’s not too late unless you were planning to travel somewhere. Here are four ways to spend your NYE:

1- Book a chalet or a small apartment in the mountains:
Faraya, Kfardebian, Faqra, Zahle and the Cedars are still popular destinations to celebrate New Year’s Eve even if it barely snowed this year. The closer you are to Mzaar, the more expensive chalets are but you can find good deals if you go up and ask around. In fact, chances are you will find real cheap chalets if you have time to look around.

2- Book a chalet or a small apartment in Beirut/Mount Lebanon
If you can’t drive to the mountains to check out chalets, I recommend you look in areas like Broumana or Bikfaya. Three years ago, we found a huge apartment that could fit up to 25 people in Broumana for $400 and we are probably going there again this year.

PS: You can also opt for chalets in beach resorts as they are much cheaper now.

3- Spend the night at home or at a friend’s house:
If you have a mountain house or a spacious house with a small garden or outdoor area, you can always plan parties at your own place but it’s a hassle to organize everything and make sure no one messes up the house. If you have kids and can’t leave them anywhere, you can always plan a fun night (board games, cards, poker) with friends or other parents.

4- Party Out:
I’d rather spend the night in a chalet or at some friend’s place than go out and party on NYE but there are tons of events and parties taking place that you can check on the below links:

– [Lebtivity] has over 100 events listed with all the necessary details.
– [newyearinLebanon.tel] lets you search for parties inside and outside Beirut, as well as sort them by budget.

Enjoy and make sure to drive safe on that night!

The Best Christmas Gift For Lebanese Politicians

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Sakkir el Dekkene ran a poll to determine the best Christmas gift for Lebanese politicians and 59% voted for a first class expulsion airline ticket (Rawou7a bala Raj3a). As a result, Dekkene decided to visit all politicians and give them the ticket but only Boutros Harb and Ali Hassan Khalil agreed to meet them.

I guess most of them were already abroad on a holiday spending our tax money in insanely lavish hotels and resorts.

PS: I’m surprised 2% voted for politicians to review their mandates. Who are these people?

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dekkene

Christmas Trees & Decoration From Around Lebanon

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Dhour Choueir #Christmas at Dhour Choueir – via OnTime Photography

Here are selected pictures from Christmas tree and decoration from around Lebanon. I included malls that I visited as well since they usually have the best Christmas decoration. If you have pictures from your hometown that you’d like to share, email them please at nmitri@gmail.com.

via StudioTechnoMix

There are two Christmas trees in Jbeil, one on the main street and another near the sea castle and both are stunning!

byblos1 Christmas tree by the sea castle in Byblos.

20151216_210437 Patchi Christmas tree – Beirut Souks

20151217_112627 ABC Achrafieh tree and decoration

20151218_192117 LeMall – Sin el Fil

20151128_102414 LeMall Dbayyeh

Batroun2 Batroun Christmas tree – via Gebran Bassil page

Beirut Martyrs Square Christmas tree – via Patyl

Zahle Zahle all lit up for Christmas

Zgharta Bnechaii lake

Tannourine Tannourine Christmas tree

Ferzol Ferzol Christmas tree

I spotted as well this original tree at Les Caves de Taillevent:

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Here are pictures of the nativity scene at College Central in Jounieh. Thank you Samer!

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#PositiveTouch – Helping NGOs That Matter This Christmas

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Christmas is a time for giving but it’s always important to give to the right organizations & NGOs that are really making a difference in our Lebanese society. Unfortunately, we have more NGOs than people in need in Lebanon (not really but you get my point) and very few of them are truly worth supporting. Among these very few, Brave Heart Fund, Association for Forests Development and Conservation (AFDC) & the Nawaya Network are NGOs that I highly respect and admire and that I’ve been supporting for years. I love what they stand for, how they are positively impacting our society and I applaud Touch for kicking off this initiative and selecting all three of them to support during Christmas.

About the NGOS:
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AFDC: This is one of the oldest and most active NGOs in Lebanon that deal with the environment and work on achieving a sustainable conservation of natural resources, as well as raising awareness and building capacities to contribute to the national efforts for better environmental management. They’ve been lobbying for years for changes in environmental and sustainable development policies and preventing harm to the environment despite all the difficulties.

Brave Heart Fund: “No child should die from heart disease because of a lack of funds”. That’s what this NGO has been trying to achieve for years by collecting funds to help treat babies diagnosed with heart diseases at birth. 100% of all donations are used to cover medical expenses and they’ve been able to save a lot of children since 2003.

The Nawaya Network: I’ve been supporting and following up on this NGO since day 1 and their award-winning online platform has been helping connect promising disadvantaged youth with mentors, businesses, and institutions since 2013.

How Can You Help?
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The #PositiveTouch campaign is aimed at raising awareness on these NGOs but will also result in supporting one of them financially with $15,000. People will get to vote for their favorite NGO by using the #PositiveTouch and #(NameofNGO) (#‎Nawaya‬, #‪‎AFDCLebanon‬ or ‪#‎BraveHeartFund‬) on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and Touch will reward the people’s choice by the end of the campaign on December 27 at midnight.

What matters the most is that all three NGOs will gain a substantial exposure and that people will get to engage in a socially responsible discussion for a change and help trend hashtags that actually make sense and that can leave a positive impact on our society.

So let’s start voting and raising awareness on important causes and a Merry Christmas to you all!

15 Things to Have in Your Car During Christmas Traffic in Lebanon

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traffic Source

It took me 2 hours and 35 minutes to get from Achrafieh to Jeita today and things are only going to get worse in the coming days, so here’s a list of things to keep in your car during the holiday traffic:

1- Shaving Kit:
Your looks might change from the time you leave home and get to work.

2- Pictures of your family and loved ones:
There’s a big chance you won’t remember how they look like by the time you get home.

3- Xanax, Klonopin, Valium or any similar medication:
To avoid killing others and more importantly yourself.

4- Your DSLR Camera and Kit:
You can shoot some really cool long exposure shots between Antelias and Nahr el Kalb.

5- Volumes I to XVI of Encyclopædia Britannica:
You will need a light-read along the way.

6- Portable battery chargers (16000 AMH+):
You will be abusing your 3G/4G plan and will need to recharge your phone up to 3-4 times maybe. I recommend Anker as it charges while you are using your phone so you don’t miss a thing.

7- Termos, Bezer, Foul, Bazella and beer.
If you are driving skip the beer and stick to the light snacks. I would recommend having a BBQ set as well if you are stuck with friends in traffic.

8- A portable hot-dog stand
If you want to make a couple of bucks while stuck in traffic, start selling hotdogs to the drivers nearby.

9- An engagement ring:
You might end up meeting the love of your life while stuck in traffic so keep a diamond ring in the car just in case.

10- Air-board:
If you want to get out of the car to see what’s going on and want to look cool, get the air-board and roam around cars.

11- The Nose Picker 3000:
We all pick our nose during traffic.

12- A Yoga mat:
Place your yoga mat on the roof and meditate until traffic is gone. Watch out though as too much yoga could turn you into a devil worshiper.

13- A tent and sleeping bags:
If you have to spend the night stuck in traffic, set up a tent between three cars, light a small fire camp and invite people to join in.

14- A portable piano or any music instrument:
Set it up on your roof and start playing. You will become a YouTube sensation in no time.

15- The Car Horn Concertmaster:
You will have that urge to honk during traffic but you have to be careful not to annoy other drivers as you might get yourself killed in the process. The Car Horn Concertmaster is the answer.

Enjoy and use these tips wisely!

PS: Jimmy helped in this post

Exporting Trash Is Probably The Best Thing We Can Do In Lebanon

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zbele2

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Update: Earlier pictures of the garbage export leaked by Al Anhar lol!.

Update2: Britain’s Chinook Urban Mining International has obtained Russia’s approval to take in Lebanon’s trash.

The garbage crisis in Lebanon was temporarily resolved yesterday whereas trash will sent abroad for the next 18 months starting mid-January. The solution was announced very late at night around 11 pm by Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb who stated that this solution will cost us $200 million ($212 per ton including sweeping fees for Greater Beirut) that will paid out of Independent Municipal Fund. The contract will cost us more than the one we are paying for Sukleen, and there was no mention of encouraging recycling or reducing trash during this period but I don’t think there’s a better alternative for the time being.

To be honest, I’d rather we export the garbage and pay extra than wait for our politicians to agree on setting new landfills and hiring a new company. Those who are complaining about sending the trash abroad don’t have a better alternative and are not doing anything to help, and the #YouStink movement is no longer active unfortunately. What would be ideal of course would be to send incompetent and corrupt people along with the trash but they are here to stay sadly enough while the decent ones are leaving or kept on the side.

Sending our troubles away and blaming foreign interference are what we do best here in Lebanon after all.

PS: Grey Beirut saw it coming haha!

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Meet The Labneh Chocolate Bûche

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The Labneh Bûche is back this year for Christmas with a new flavor, Chocolate. These healthy and home-made Labneh-based Bûches are being prepared by my friend and dietitian Nicole Maftoum (#EatLikeNicole) and are delicious!

The Original Labneh Bûche

The original Labneh Bûche is made of:
– Taanayel les fermes Labneh light cream pure at heart (7 times less caloric and 20 times less fattening than butter).
– Walnuts with their high omega-3 content.
– Almonds packed with proteins, calcium and fiber.
– Goji berries, also known as longevity fruits all along with cranberries which are high antioxidants.
– Cashew and Macadamia which are rich flavorful nuts packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals.

While the Chocolate Labneh Bûche includes premium cocoa beans.
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I tasted the Chocolate one over the weekend and it was good but I still prefer the original one. One thing is for sure, both are very original, very healthy when compared to the normal bûches we have and more importantly they taste really good!

If you are interested and wish to order your bûche, check out Nicole’s page for more info [here].